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Bemidji State third baseball Joey Hanowski tosses a ball to first base during practice Wednesday at the BSU Baseball Field. The Beavers are scheduled to play their home opener today with a doubleheader against Wayne State. Jack Hittinger | Bemidji Pioneer
Bemidji State third baseball Joey Hanowski tosses a ball to first base during practice Wednesday at the BSU Baseball Field. The Beavers are scheduled to play their home opener today with a doubleheader against Wayne State. Jack Hittinger | Bemidji Pioneer

BASEBALL: Beavers set to open home season today with doubleheader against Wayne State

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BEMIDJI — Even if the BSU baseball team has to cancel or postpone more home games this season, it almost certainly won’t be because of snow.

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And that’s music to the Beavers’ ears — especially after last season’s long, snowy winter prevented BSU from playing at home until May 1. The Beavers only had six home games, which happened to be in the final weekend of the regular season.

That won’t be the case this year. Weather permitting (there was a thunderstorm Wednesday night) the Beavers will open their home slate today with a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference doubleheader against Wayne State. First pitch is at 2 p.m.

“Last year was rough,” centerfielder Chad Hanson said before practice Wednesday at the BSU baseball diamond. It was the first outdoor practice BSU has had this season, save a 10-day trip to Arizona. “We travelled a lot (last season). It was horrible winter. We had so much snow and had bobcats out here to get the field ready just to play those six games at the end of the season.”

Highs on Wednesday were in the 60s and BSU head coach Tim Bellew said he thinks that melted things enough for the Beavers to get out and play.

“A week ago today, I would have sworn we never would have gotten this in,” Bellew said. “We were already making arrangements to go to Wayne and Winona (BSU’s opponents this weekend).”

But then he saw the forecast for this week and thought the Beavers had a shot. They cleared the infield on Friday before leaving for an NSIC series against Bismarck, N.D. When they returned, most of the snow had melted. It took a little work Tuesday but by Wednesday there was no snow to be found anywhere on the diamond.

“It’s nice to be outside to let them swing the bats,” Bellew said. “They have some smiles on their faces and a little more pep in their step.

“We figured on the way back from Mary the other day that we had traveled 8,500 miles by charter bus and we’re glad we’re not making that trek to Wayne right now.”

On Wednesday, the Beavers spent most of their time taking batting practice swings outdoors — a luxury they haven’t had in Bemidji.

The warning track area behind the plate was mostly mud and the foul ground off the first and third base lines was soggy but the playing field appeared almost completely dry.

The Beavers are 11-10 overall and 5-3 in conference play and have won five out of their last eight games — including taking three of four from U-Mary Monday and Tuesday. Wayne State is 15-11 overall and 8-4 in the NSIC after winning three of four against Sioux Falls.

“We’ve been doing lots of scrapping,” BSU pitcher Ryan Rumpca said. “We have been in a couple close games that we’ve pulled out. It’s always a competition in this league. We’ve been playing some small ball to pick up some runs and eventually we’re finally coming out on top, which is always good.”

Of BSU’s five wins in that span, four were by one run and the second was by two runs.

Bellew said the team struggled early in the season but that was due in part to the nature of their Arizona trip.

“Our first 10 games, our record didn’t indicate we played that well,” he said. “We went 3-7, and we struggled in the last five games. We played a lot of kids in Arizona, but now we’ve got a more consistent lineup.”

First baseman Dylan Webb is currently riding a six-game hitting streak while third baseman Joey Hanowski had five hits in BSU’s series against U-Mary, driving in four runs.

Catcher Zach Braun currently leads the team with 26 RBIs and has a .514 slugging percentage.

“The whole lineup has really been producing,” Hanson said. “Our pitching has really developed too. They’ve been doing well and we’ve been putting up runs. So we just have to keep doing that.

“Hopefully we can get two wins tomorrow and carry it onto the weekend.”

The Beavers are scheduled to host Winona State Saturday and Sunday in another pair of NSIC doubleheaders.

NOTE: Rumpca, a freshman from Ramsey, was honored as the NSIC’s pitcher of the week after making three appearances on the mound against Augustana and U-Mary. He didn’t allow a run and gave up just one hit and one walk in seven innings pitched — all in relief.

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Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
(218) 333-9772
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